File photo of Outlook magazine's Group Editor-in-Chief Ruben Banerjee. | Photo: Twitter/@Rubenbanerjee/Outlook
File photo of Outlook magazine's Group Editor-in-Chief Ruben Banerjee. | Photo: Twitter/@Rubenbanerjee/Outlook
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New Delhi: Outlook magazine’s Group Editor-in-Chief Ruben Banerjee, who returned from a 33-day leave Wednesday, was sacked a couple of hours after he sent a message to senior editors asking for a story on “Abba Jaan & Adityanath” for the weekly’s next cover story.

Shortly before Banerjee’s contract was terminated by Chief Executive Indranil Roy over disciplinary issues, the magazine’s Managing Editor Sunil Menon also put in his papers. On Monday, the company had named Chinki Sinha as Editor.

Speaking to ThePrint, Banerjee, who had gone on his leave from 12 August, said he was sacked without any intimation. 

“I asked to extend my leave on 12 September as I was not feeling well…. I recovered and joined today. When did rejoining become a disciplinary issue?” he asked, adding that there were differences between him and the Outlook management on the kind of content being published — a reference to stories critical of the ruling Narendra Modi government.

However, CEO Roy told ThePrint that this was not a sudden termination as Banerjee had been on leave and “was absent amidst Outlook’s ambitious digital launch”. Roy had said earlier that he had approved his leave.

On 12 September, in an email exchange between Roy and Banerjee, accessed by ThePrint, the CEO had written to the editor, saying he would discuss “all the issues” between them after Banerjee recovers and joins work.

“I completely disagree with your perception of what has transpired between us….Currently I am stressed in respect of resources and therefore we have recruited an editor for Outlook who will be joining us soon. We can discuss all the issues when we meet in person next, after you recover,” Roy wrote.

Banerjee joined Wednesday and was sacked within hours.

“The issue here was the digital journey of the organisation. I wanted young, ‘rushy’ people for our digital platform. But he had different opinions. He thought I was undermining him, but this wasn’t the case. He took the drastic decision of going on leave,” Roy told ThePrint.

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‘Group was unhappy with the kind of content we were doing’

Banerjee had joined Outlook in 2018 as the Editor. He was promoted as the Editor-in-Chief in 2019, and was made the Editor-in Chief of Outlook Money and Outlook Hindi in 2020. This year, he was promoted to the Group Editor-in-Chief.

“If I was getting such promotions, this means I must have been good at my job. My trouble started because of differences over our content. They were not happy with the kind of content we were doing,” Banerjee told ThePrint, citing Outlook’s story on the Pegasus controversy and terror laws as examples.

The magazine’s ‘Missing’ cover from the May edition, suggesting that the Modi government was missing amid the devastating second Covid wave, had drawn strong reaction from the ruling dispensation, with many ministers and BJP leaders conveying their displeasure to the management as also the editor-in-chief, according to sources at Outlook.

However, the CEO denied suggestions that there was any pressure on the organisation regarding the ‘Missing’ cover story.

“There was absolutely no pressure on the editor regarding the ‘Missing’ cover story. It will be worth noting that the ‘Missing’ cover was published in May 2021, and Mr Ruben Banerjee was promoted in June 2021,” he told ThePrint. 

“As for the Yogi Adityanath story (Wednesday), Mr Banerjee was on leave for the past 35 days (from August 11, 2021) and was not involved in the operations of Outlook in any manner whatsoever since he went on leave,” he added.

The magazine’s managing editor Sunil Menon also quit Tuesday and announced the same in a series of tweets on Twitter Wednesday.

“Now only the funeral rites are left to be conducted on this ‘chapter’, which I hope to conduct with due dignity, fulfilling all my promises to people outside before I leave. Ruben Banerjee, you will have been my last editor, and we had a great run, thank you,” he wrote.

However, he clarified that his resignation is a personal decision and isn’t necessarily connected to Banerjee’s departure. He was goaded by a blend of “personal and institutional reasons”.

“Here, it is institutional, in the sense of a certain direction things seem to be taking that I do not find to be congruent with my values and those set by some iconic names and great colleagues over the years,” he told ThePrint.

Owned by the Rajan Raheja group, Outlook launched its magazine in 1995 with Vinod Mehta as its first editor. It currently has five titles Outlook English and Hindi, Outlook Money, Outlook Traveller and Outlook Business.

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